WILDLIFE LOOP ROAD: A WILD DRIVE THROUGH CUSTER STATE PARK
One of my favorite things to do is play tourist in my backyard. Luckily the Black Hills are my backyard, so playing tourist is easy. There are still a lot of places I have never been in the Black Hills, and I’ve lived in this area for the majority of my life, one of these locations is Custer State Park. Sure I had been to the park but I never actually spent a day there. Since the park has so many activities and things to do, it is hard to do everything in one day, so I decided to start with one of the most popular areas in the park, Wildlife Loop Road.
Before we started down the loop, I made my friend Kris stop at the Visitors Center. I have been there once before, but the interactive displays and the new movie area are too amazing to pass up. My favorite part is seeing how I measure up to a buffalo. This display is a scale that you stand on, and it shows you how much you weigh compared to a Buffalo. When I stand on the scale, I fill up their hooves. The Visitors Center also has a cool interactive map. When you click the screens, it lights up different areas of the park, so you know exactly where you are going. The new Visitors Center is so cool I knew the rest of the park was going to blow me away.
As we ventured out on our adventure, I was literally bouncing with anticipation. I’ve lived in this area my entire life and had never seen a herd of buffalo before. We got about 2 miles into the loop, and then we saw a herd laying down too tired from the heat to move. At this point, I was yelling “Look at all the Buffalo!” Kudos to Kris for putting up with my childlike excitement. After stopping for way too long to get a billion photos of the heard we headed back down the loop.
The rest of the drive was very leisurely; we didn’t see another herd, but we stopped on the road to walk up a few scenic hikes. Looking over the vast plains and trees reminded me of how expansive and diverse my home is. We saw a few other creatures on the drive which is surprising since it was so hot outside that day. My next favorite was a begging burro. Growing up on a farm with donkeys I knew exactly what he wanted to eat and I am so glad I packed a couple carrots. He ate them right out of my hand. I gave him a few pets, and we continued down the road.
We were almost to the end of the drive when we came across a herd of horses from Blue Bell Stables. There were so many it was awesome. The sun was in the perfect spot, and we were able to get photos of a white horse that looked like they were taken straight out of a fairytale. At the end of the day, we took one last detour to a scenic overlook. We could see everything from the Needles to Crazy Horse and Mount Rushmore. After this drive/hike, we were both exhausted but pleased with the experience.
If you are planning to Visit Rapid City and the Black Hills I strongly suggest Custer State Park. Wildlife Loop Road is one tiny amazing aspect of the park, but you can see and do so much more. If you will be here in September, make your way to the Buffalo Roundup where you can see the 1,300 buffalo run. Rumor has it the ground literally shakes underneath you.